Communication preferences for successful knowledge translation

People with good connections still have difficulty in engaging those connections or stakeholders when it comes down to disseminating or translating their findings into something that can be used.

It is important to consider the stakeholders that you know and already have an existing relationship with. Often we assume that having the connection is enough, however, people also have preferences when it comes to communication. There is great value in understanding how best to communicate with your stakeholders and how they will differ in their information and communication preferences.

For example, a policymaker may have many demands on their time and will need to have information delivered in a way that is suitable and relevant to them contextually,  and in addition, it is helpful to understand how best to communicate with them based on their individual preferences.

What do we mean by preferences?

Some people want to know all the details, the background and really get to know a person before they will take something on or even believe in you, others prefer communication that is quick, less detailed and to the point. Using the wrong style will be less successful and may even damage your chances of future involvement. Your personal style will not always be the best one, understanding this and be willing to adapt your style is the key to your success.

How do we know these preferences?

In the first instance, you need to understand your own preference. I personally like to use DISC profiles because they are simple to use and easy to understand without too many layers or types to contend with. DISC is a behaviour assessment tool first developed by psychologist William Moulton Marston. The tool focuses on four different behavioural traits: dominance, inducement, submission, and compliance, and was further developed into a behavioural assessment tool by industrial psychologist Walter Vernon Clarke in the early 1980’s, you can find out more out the tool here.

I suggest that you download the DISC assessment and do it yourself in the first instance. Once you understand your own preference or style of communication and interpersonal relationships you will be able to identify other people’s preferences.

Usually, we are not going to be able to walk up to our stakeholder and ask them to take a behaviour assessment, in fact, this probably wouldn’t go down too well with many people! You can use this with your project team though.

“The best use of DISC is to learn more about oneself, others and how to deal with situations where interpersonal relationships are involved.” Wikipedia

Determining preferences

Never fear, there are some more subtle ways that you can identify other people’s preferences. You can determine this information from your in-person meetings, telephone calls or even email responses and dialogue. Use the following questions to consider your stakeholders.

First, consider what is this person’s pace of communication?

  • Do they respond rapidly, assertively or with a fast pace? (Quick)
  • Or do pause before acting, respond more thoughtfully and in a calm and methodical manner?  (Deliberate)

Now, consider their priority when communicating:

  • Are they questioning the task, or challenging the premise? (Task-focused)
  • Are they empathising and agreeable? (People focused)

For more guidance on this, check out this SlideShare. 

Now you should have some indication of the way they like their information and communication. The next step is to tailor your communication accordingly. In the next blog, I will outline some tips and tricks to consider when communicating with the different behaviour types.

If you are having difficulty in communicating with your stakeholder’s, you can book a free 20min chat with me, and we can develop some immediate strategies to get things moving.